Despair for Percy with injury-time loss

Morpeth 55 Consett 7
Morpeth 55 Consett 7

Cleckheaton 31-27 Percy Park RFC

At this present moment Percy Park are travelling along a bumpy road recording a five game losing streak…yet if this performance can be used as a guide, it appears as if Park are nearing the end of that particular road.

A much improved performance had Cleckheaton on the rack and it was only in disputed overtime that the Cleckheaton number 8 Jack Sneddon bounced off several tackles to score a fine try to win the game for the home side. A game that Percy Park could have, and some will argue should have, returned with five points secured and confidence restored.

Percy Park started the game with six changes from last week’s loss. Josh Hedley made his first start of the season after returning from his New Zealand sabbatical and Tom ‘Roofer’ Robertson made his debut in the back row. First blood went to Cleckheaton with Percy Park adjudged to illegally transgressed within kicking distance of the posts. With the subsequent penalty taken Percy Park found themselves 3-0 down after 3 minutes and if matters couldn’t get worse Percy Park found themselves a man down after 5 minutes with Jake Smith being dispatched to the sin bin for ‘repeated offending’. And as in previous weeks the opposition made Park pay with an unconverted try on 14 minutes. Cleckheaton using the extra man to their advantage to put winger Liam Darville into the left corner to score a relatively easy try.

Yet Park stuck to their task and fortune took a turn with Cleckheaton’s Jack Sneddon being sent to ‘the bin’ for ten minutes following a robust high tackle and within two minutes Park wing Leo Caulfield had put the visitors on the scoresheet. With Captain Jonny Dubois hugging the touchline Leo Caulfield found himself in space within the midfield and threw a long flat pass to Dubois. A pass that had the Cleckheaton support screaming at the referee to disallow the move as being forward. Yet play continued with Dubois holding his ground and Caulfield coming on the loop to sprint away from the opposition to score in the corner. Had fortune decided to look Park’s way? With the try unconverted Percy Park continued to use the extra man to some effect and as the yellow card was about to lapse Seb Rees finished a fine flowing move to score in the identical corner and on this occasion fly half Michael Grove was able to convert from out wide. Park were ahead by 12 points to 8.

With confidence restored Park let loose and it was with no great surprise that the ‘black and whites’ increased their lead through centre Charlie Greswold. Greswold had a fine game, having returning from a lengthy injury he reminded all of his value to the Park midfield and how much the team had missed his presence on the field. With the Park forwards pressing the Cleckheaton line, scrum half Ollie Gilmour used the ball from the back of the ruck to feed the midfield runners and with Greswold running a fine line from deep a short pass put him in the ‘hole’ and over the line giving Grove an easy conversion, much to the chagrin of the Cleckheaton support who could be heard calling for a forward pass. Their pleas went unanswered and Park took an 11 point lead at the turn.

From the restart Cleckheaton were at Percy Park and it was clear if Park could weather the storm and regain the front foot the afternoon would be theirs. However Cleckheaton’s number 8 Jack Sneddon had other ideas and in a barnstorming run that saw a few attempts to tackle him drop off, he threw a one handed pass inside to the supporting player who came on an angle to ‘wrong-foot’ Park Captain Jonny Dubois to score. Was this an early sign of things to come? At this point Percy Park really needed to close Sneddon down and restrict his ability on the ball. Although the conversion was missed momentum had swung Cleckheaton’s way and on 56 minutes the home side clawed their way back into the game with a well taken penalty reducing the deficit to three.

Not to be deterred a ruck, almost on the half way line, saw the Park forwards clear out and with scrum half Ollie Gilmour spotting a gap on the fringe he accelerated into the space and with Michael Grove in support a ’pop’ pass saw Grove out strip the Cleckheaton defence. Much to the delight of the travelling Park support. Unfortunatly the conversion was missed. With bonus point secured Park were looking good for the five point haul although there was some concern that the missed conversions could prove costly .

Yet it was poor defending by the Park team that let Cleckheaton back into the game. ‘Cleck’ forward Mike Hayward was allowed far too much room to muscle forward into Parks ‘5 metre’ territory with several tackles missed and some weak attempts to stop him. Having crossed the ‘5’ he was almost allowed to roll over and score in the far right hand corner and to make matters worse for Park the try was converted. A further penalty on 75 minutes saw Cleckheaton take a 26-24 lead. With five minutes to go Park needed something and on 79 minutes Michael Grove coolly claimed a penalty kick for Park. The lead restored by one. The game was going to the wire. With what appeared to be seconds on the clock the referee decreed that Park coach Lome Faatau was caught offside allowing Cleckheaton a kick at the posts. With the kick missed Park thought they had won; the referee had other ideas and allowed the re start. Park elected to kick long and with the resulting possession Jack Sneddon was allowed time and space to run at the Park defence and….. well the rest is history and at the death Cleckheaton snatched the victory. A victory that had the home support fist pumping and jumping up and down with delight and a victory that had Park players on their knees in despair.